After a mild start to the month with plenty of sunny days and temperatures soaring to 24°C, it would seem that winter is beginning to make an appearance and the past few mornings have either been damp and drizzly, or crisp and frosty. I, personally, prefer the latter…it reminds me of the mountain climate we have been so accustomed to over the past few years.
The good news is, that while there have been freezing temperatures outside, our new double glazed windows are doing a superb job at keeping the heat inside. We are thrilled with our new patio doors. They give us a beautiful view of the countryside, and they allow the sun and light to brighten up the living room. Unfortunately, there was an error back at the factory for two of the upstairs windows, and they sent us the wrong size. These were quickly reordered and should be installed next week, all going well. On a brighter note, the window on the stairs, which was the only window we had decided not to change (for financial reasons) was mistakenly removed by the window fitters, leaving them with no option but to replace it with a new complimentary one. It’s probably saved us in the region of 500€, and means we can get on with insulating and decorating the stairs later next year.
Some of the old windows were in such a poor state, we couldn’t possibly keep them for anything else. There was very little, if any silicone holding them in their frames…it’s a wonder they stayed in at all! The better ones, we have kept hold of, and Pete hopes to use them to make some cold frames for next spring. Since the builders left, we have two nice piles of good quality stone to play with, which should come in useful when building the terrace, pizza oven and barbecue next year.
Today marked another milestone for us Chez TêteBlanche…
Today was the day we lit our very own wood burner for the very first time…and transformed our living room from fridge to sauna! Over the past couple of months, we have made the most of the special online offers, to buy the wood burner itself, the flue liner and accessories, as well as the tiles for the fireplace…for an overall expenditure of just under 800 euros! That’s a staggering 3000 euros less than the best quote we got from the professionals. The problem at the moment is that there are so many government incentives to improve the energy efficiency of your house, that suppliers and fitters tend to up their prices, in the knowledge that the customer will be given back money in the form of tax credits, handouts or gift vouchers. In order to make the most of these, we would have had to spend in the region of 5000 euros on the stove and its installation, which is simply too costly for a secondary heating source. 800 euros however, is similar to the cost of a thousand litres of fuel for the boiler (which lasts about three months on average), so with the free wood Pete brings home from work, the wood burner is a great investment. Besides, it is a beautiful addition to our living room, giving it character, and more importantly, it should hopefully keep us cosy and warm this winter.
Until now, the word ‘cosy’ had never been synonymous with our house, with its concrete, stone walls and cold tiled floors. The house was built in 1965 and due to the unexpected death of the owner, it unfortunately never got finished. The owner’s wife lived downstairs for the rest of her days, with what we can gather, very little money to make any improvements. It appears she lived for the outdoors, a keen gardener and permaculturist. Every tree and bush seems to have been planted for a reason, and we hope to continue her hard work. Her family often pop over for a chat when they’re in the area, and they always tell me that despite growing up with little money, they were very happy and shared a lot of wonderful memories in the house that was to become ‘our home’.
I found this quote particularly fitting, especially since we are trying to pave the way to a brighter future for a family. The internet is full of similar stories about people all over the world, all taking steps to a better way of life. Here are the links to some of the sites that have caught my interest in the past couple of months:
Pure Living for Life
An American couple who have recently left city life behind them in a bid to live more simply, through off the grid homesteading.
One Tree Per Child
A global scheme that initially started in Australia, but has recently been launched in Bristol.
Mother Earth News
A great site for tips and advice about being green, sustainability and homesteading.
Stove Fitters Manual
A very helpful website if you plan to install your own woodburner, according to UK regulations.
The Mud Home
An influential blog about the earthbag adventure of one very determined lady in Turkey.
Our Chilean Adventure
An inspiring account of a family who left the US to make a better life in Chile.
Life on La Lune
A very well-written expat blog about life and culture in South West France.
Winkos: a straw bale building adventure in Poland
A wonderful insight into sustainable living in Poland…a well-structured blog that makes a very enjoyable read.
La Ferme de Sourrou
Although there are no recent blog posts, there are plenty of interesting archives from 2006 to 2011 about an off the grid smallholding in the Dordogne, in France.
To end this month’s post, I wanted to show you this beautiful watercolour I came across recently of Compolibat, our village, by Alexis Nouailhat. Not only does it make me want to get my paint set out and have a go myself, but more importantly, it allows me to look at my village through somebody else’s eyes, to appreciate its true beauty, and reminds me to never take it for granted.